Hard Candy withdraws #MeToo trademark application after backlash

Hard Candy Cosmetics has withdrawn their trademark application of the hashtag #MeToo to use on its products. (Photo: Instagram/hardcandy/Yahoo Lifestyle)

UPDATED, [Jan. 18, 2018]: Hard Candy Cosmetics rescinded its application to trademark #MeToo after negative response to the news earlier this week. Though the company had claimed it planned to use 100 percent of the proceeds from #MeToo labeled cosmetics for the cause, some saw it as an inappropriate use of the hashtag meant to help survivors of sexual violence share their stories.

“Hard Candy has always quietly and proudly supported a non-profit organization that directly contributes to many women’s causes,” Jerome Falic, the CEO of Hard Candy parent company Duty Free Americas, said in a statement given to Teen Vogue. “When the trademark application for #metoo was filed, one of our objectives was to bring greater awareness to this important and long overdue movement. We planned to donate 100% of all profits arising from this trademark to #metoo. Based on several public responses, we have abandoned the application.”

Response to the initial story of the trademark application was swift and unambiguous on Twitter.

Even though the company decided not to try to use the hashtag, Falic said it would still support the cause.

“We will continue to support the work of this watershed movement and other causes that respect the dignity of women and all people,” he said in his statement.

This article was originally published on Jan. 17, 2018: 

Hard Candy Cosmetics has filed to trademark #MeToo for fragrance and cosmetics. TMZ first reported this on Tuesday, and a search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database confirms that it was filed in October. If approved, it would give the company the sole right to brand its makeup products with the hashtag created for survivors of sexual harassment and assault.

Is this a callous attempt to co-opt the movement for profit? Jerome Falic, the CEO of Hard Candy parent company Duty Free Americas, told TMZ the purpose of the trademark would be to give back to women worldwide. (Yahoo Lifestyle has reached out to Hard Candy’s reps for comment as well.)

Giving back to women is a great idea for any company, but doing so by taking on the name of a social movement is tricky on more than one level. First, there is the issue that #MeToo isn’t just a hashtag promoted by celebrities in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations. It’s a movement Tarana Burke started in 2007, aiming to reach survivors in underserved communities.

“It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible,” Burke told Ebony last year. “[I]t was us talking to us.”

When the hashtag went viral in October, many knew it was only a matter of time before corporations would try to figure out a way to jump into the conversation. Jewelry company Adornia was an early adopter, sending out what many thought was a tone-deaf press release about its new “Me Too” necklace. Initially the company said 10 percent of sales of the $44 item would go to the Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN), but the backlash was so swift, Adornia abruptly announced it would donate 100 percent of sales to RAINN.

The trademark database search shows Hard Candy isn’t the only company to file for #MeToo this fall. Two applicants filed to use it for legal consultation services and another for silicone or rubber bracelets. Without the hashtag, there’s also an application for a software app.

Brands looking to use the popularity of the movement, however well intentioned, have plenty of examples of what not to do. They probably don’t want a Pepsi Kendall Jenner ad on their hands. Nor do they want to follow in the footsteps of luxury brand Port 1961, which showed “Every Color Matters” T-shirts at its spring 2018 men’s fashion show last summer.

At the other end of the spectrum is MAC’s success story. Back in 1994 the cosmetics company launched Viva Glam lipstick to raise money to help men, women, and children with HIV and AIDS, and it’s still going strong. If Hard Candy were to do something that huge to end sexual violence, people might have no problem with its name.

The piece has been updated to reflect breaking news developments.

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